Saturday, March 29, 2008

8 Excuses That Prevent You From Reaching an Empty Inbox

Who doesn't like the concept of a completely clear inbox? All tasks efficiently dealt with. No outstanding 'urgent' requests remaining. Nothing hanging over your head to 'come back to later when you have more time'. Well this post isn't about that sort of inbox. Its a lighthearted post about its evil twin the messy inbox. An inbox clogged up with irrelevant emails. And the excuses we use to justify bad email habit behaviour. You know who you are!

In a future post I will examine some good email habits. The first step to overcoming bad email habits however, is to identify our own mental blocks standing in the way between us and a potential email utopia.

Okay, so lets paint the picture. I am opening my inbox right now with a bold determination to sort this mess out! I have set aside some time this week (an hour perhaps) to do nothing else but clear out that inbox. Nothing is going to stand in my way. So lets take a look at that first email there. Oh dear. Perhaps this wasn't a good example to start off with. Perhaps, we should move onto the next one and it will be much easier ...

If this sounds familiar to you then you are not alone. Some emails are easier to tidy than others. Over the course of a week I tried to record my reactions whenever I came up with a difficult email to sort/classify/delete. I invite you to do the same before we move on to some healthy email habits next week. For the sake of clarity I would like to reiterate I am in no way condoning this sort of behaviour, but quite the opposite. Here is my list of internal responses to various difficult emails:

Wow! Fascinating! Let me research more on this or phone someone about it...
Not a good way to start off our allocated time to clear out those emails is it? We got a bit distracted and well the rest is history..

I'd like some to respond in detail but now now...
So the email stays in the inbox marked read...

I don't have time to do this
Well why not leave it in the inbox, to 'come back to later' when you spontaneously have too much time on your hands? Along with all the other emails still waiting...

I don't want to do this
But equally I can't delete it because it was allocated by my boss. Perhaps I can just wait and see if everyone forgets about it?

Wow the next email sure looks more interesting than this one
How about I read that one first and 'come back later'. (Don't hold your breath).

My phone rings with some new random urgent request of the day and the time allocated to clearing the inbox is gone.

Easy Access
I have written the essence of this in my @todo list, but I want to keep the email easy to find in my inbox so its 'easy to reply to'. Or worse, it has file attachments I want to keep and refer to in the upcoming week.

Too many inboxes!
I like to organize the content I am receiving so I make sure that work emails don't arrive in my personal inbox and vice versa.
A few others were created for other reasons (e.g. catching spam). However now I'm finding that there are just too many to manage effectively and some don't get read.

Thats all for now. I did enjoy compiling the list. Let me know if you have any others!

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